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EPSB committee talks sick leave and overtime

By: NANCY DUPLECHAIN
Associate Editor

The Evangeline Parish School Board’s committee on Policy, Athletic, and Curriculum discussed changes in policies dealing with emergency COVID-19 sick leave and overtime pay at Wednesday’s meeting.
Dealing with the emergency closing of schools, the committee approved new policies associated with the pandemic. The policy states the parish School Board shall grant the authority to the superintendent to determine and announce the closing of schools whenever prevailing or potential hazards or the spread of infectious disease threatens the safety and well-being of pupils, staff, or school property. The decision to close schools shall be made by the superintendent or his/her designee after conferring, when administratively feasible, with members of the school board, appropriate professional staff, and other governmental agencies responsible for the safety and well-being of the community.
“All these policies are based on the new federal guidelines and federal laws that have come out in association with money that we are being given, such as through the CARES Act,” said Assistant Superintendent Michael Lombas. He further added, when it comes to weather, deciding to cancel schools can be tricky. “With Hurricane Harvey, we were supposed to get all this rain that never happened. You do the best you can with what you have. But when the Office of Emergency Preparedness is telling us we should be closing, we would be fools not to, because it puts us at liability. If they tell us roads may be icy and you don’t want to put your busses on the road, we don’t put them on the road. The next day the sun is shining and it’s not icy at all. It happens.”
Further, the policy goes on to explain that if students have reported to school and an emergency arises during the school day, students may be dismissed early. Such dismissal shall be only by direction of the superintendent. In the event of dismissal during the school day, all education and building employees are to continue their work, unless otherwise notified by the superintendent. In cases where students are dismissed early, teachers shall be expected to supervise all students under their jurisdiction until they have departed from the school campus.
The committee next reviewed the policy on emergency family and medical leave and emergency paid sick leave because of COVID-19. The policy states all employees who have been employed with the school board for at least 30 days shall be eligible for leave according to the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA). Employees laid off or otherwise terminated on or after March 1, 2020, who are rehired on or before December 31, 2020, shall be eligible for leave upon reinstatement if they had previously been employed with the School Board for 30 or more of the 60 days prior to their layoff or termination. Lombas said they did not lay off anyone during the pandemic, but they have to have this policy according to federal requirements.
The policy also states eligibility for the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA), which only applies to the COVID-19 outbreak, will have full and part-time employees who are unable to work receive full pay for certain situations, and 2/3 pay for other situations.
Situations where employees will receive full pay are: The employee is subject to federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; the employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; the employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking medical diagnosis.
Situations where employees get two-thirds pay are: The employee is caring for their child if the school or place of care of the child has been closed, or the childcare provider of the child is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions; the employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor; the employee is caring for an individual who has COVID-19 and/or is subject to quarantine. The definition of “individual” has changed to mean an immediate family member, roommate, or similar person with whom the employee has a relationship that creates and expectation the employee would care for the person if he or she self-quarantined or was quarantined. “That’s a big federal extension of extended sick leave as far as we’re concerned,” said Lombas.
Employees with COVID-19 shall be paid their regular rate of pay, or minimum wage, whichever is greater, and may get up to $511 a day and $5,110 total for leave taken. If the employee is caring for someone with COVID-19, their compensation will be two-thirds of their pay, or minimum wage, whichever is greater, allowing them to make as much as $200 per day and $2,000 total for leave taken. “This is what the feds expect, and we can’t debate it. We’re are definitely taking the CARES Act money. We’re not going to turn our noses at a little over $2.7 million,” said Lombas.
In other committee news, the policy concerning compensation and overtime pay, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) classifies exempt employees who are not eligible to receive overtime are generally salaried employees whose primary duties are directly related to the management or administrative and business functions within the school system. Learned professionals, such as teachers, are also classified as exempt. Other employees may include, but not limited to, the superintendent, directors, level 1 and 2 supervisors, principals, assistant principals, and professionals with degrees.
Nonexempt employees who are eligible to receive overtime compensation are those such as maintenance, food service, janitors and custodians, bus operators, and security personnel. This may also include non-manual labor, such as secretaries, paraprofessionals, nurses, data-processing operators and technicians, cafeteria managers and staff, and payroll staff.
When it comes to the policy on emergency and crisis management, when conducting the annual review for a high school, the school principal shall seek input from the president of the senior class or the president of the student council, and at least one other responsible student selected by the principal as representatives of students enrolled in the school.
For the policy on tax and bond election sales, the new change is now the school board must provide public notice on the cost of the election. Estimated costs of the election will be advertised before the election.
As for the holiday policy, general election day shall be designated by each school system as a holiday every four years for the presidential election. The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even-numbered years, where the parish governing body has established a polling place at a public school, shall also be designated as a holiday.
The committee approved all policies.

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